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Monday, December 22, 2014

Doug's Domain

Doug Vetter, ATP/CFI

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June 2000

It's been an even LONGER time, but here's an update. Mileage has just crept over 46K and the car still runs great. I occasionally notice the slightest bit of wheel "hop" in the front when I take turns on bumpy roads very aggressively, but I can't honestly say it wasn't there since day one or that it's not normal for a bumpy surface (hey, ever watch race cars bounce around off the shoulders of turns?) Of course, it wouldn't surprise me that the shocks are breaking in. They're supposed to last 90K+ on average, but since they're more than half through their expected lifespan, I guess this shouldn't surprise me.

On the whole, the car remains rock solid and it's in this case that the car continues to blow me away. No other car I've driven has EVER felt as tight and refined as this after 46K miles. The engine/tranny is still very smooth and there's been no noticeable loss in power throughout the band.

The car went through Inspection II at roughly 40K miles and cost $600 (yea, I know, OUCH!). The only surprise was a failed switch used for the passenger's heated seat. Apparently, one pole of the switch had failed and this prevented one of the heating elements in the seat from functioning. Since I NEVER sit in the passenger seat, I didn't notice. Good things for third-party inspections, I guess.

At some point just before the Inspection II, I managed to bend the right rear rim. I can remember that I hit a pothole one of those where you shout some token obsenity, but otherwise don't think to stop and look for a trail of parts). Problem is I can't remember where the pothole was so I can't think to avoid it. Hopefully they've fixed it by now...wherever it is. :-)

It looks as though the brakes and tires will make it to 60K or slightly beyond, so that's 30K on a set of tires and 60+K on the brakes. Not bad -- particularly given the way I drive and the common practice to replace brakes on Honda and GM-type automobiles at 30K.

July 2000

This month I crossed that nasty line no new car owner ever wants to -- my car has officially exited its warranty period. Just for sanity's sake, I scheduled a last-minute warranty service appointment this month to check on a few things including some squeaks that had appeared over the past several thousand miles, and an air-conditioning-related noise. Here's the report.

For the last two seasons at least (thus a good part of the life of the vehicle), I've noticed an occasional "rattling" noise when the air conditioning compressor is engaged. At the end of the warranty period, I finally remembered to ask my dealer about this (fearing, of course, that the bearings in the compressor were on their way out...and I was damned if I was going to pay for a new compressor...can you say $700?). Turns out that when the tech heard it, he immediately said it was caused by the A/C belt beating up the idler pulley and this was caused by improper A/C belt tension. I asked him if he could tighten the belt and he said that he "would try, but at 48K miles, they should be replaced anyway". At first I thought about arguing with him (after all, this is a "BMW" and it only has 48K miles on it) but I quickly realized it made little sense to do so. Belts are a consumable on all vehicles and are usually the first thing to break and leave you on the side of the road blowing steam (or, in the case of the A/C, sweating your nads off). Given how I'm big on preventative maintenance on everything I own, I ultimately told him to go ahead with it. They did a nice job, and charged what I considered to be a reasonable $130 w/tax for both belts installed (and for those of you who just freaked, consider how much of a fu*%#! bitch it is to do a belt change on some cars. I considered it a gift. Incidentally, the belts amounted to about 1/2 of the cost ($60, no tax). Good 'ol overpriced BMW parts. :-)

I also brought to their attention a squeak in the passenger door that I could easily duplicate by resting my hand on the top of the door, just below the window and above the door handle, and pushing inward and downward. The tech said that the door latching mechanism probably needed some lube. They did that and it's now completely quiet.

I also mentioned a tendency of the fully-closed windows to squeak a bit when the body flexed while going over big bumps. I demonstrated the sound by merely opening the window and then allowing the one-touch up mechanism to bring the window all the way up, at which point the window would "creak" as it reached the stop. The sound wasn't exactly loud or terribly annoying, but the tech got the idea. I mentioned to him that I had heard this is simply due to the door frame seals rubbing up against the top of the window and that some lube might help. When I got the car back, I noticed they had sprayed some lube (probably silicone of some sort) on the seals and when I drove the car home with the radio turned off, the car was, as it had been when I bought it, completely DEAD SILENT. Amazing what a little lube & TLC will do.

Earlier in the month I had the oil changed mid cycle at about 46.5K with no problems, and for some reason, the oil change was cheaper this time...about $38 instead of the usual $50 (and yes, the filter element was, as it always is, replaced).

October 2000

This month I managed to cross the 50K miles barrier and at a bit over 52K brought the car in for another Inspection I. No other maintenance was required or performed. Price? $420. Up a bit from last time.

Shortly after this I made the decision to purchase a second car in an attempt to take some of the burden of my daily commute off of the vehicle. So, the good news is that as of mid-October, I'm driving a 2001 Golf GTI GLX to work everyday and the bimmer is getting a well-deserved rest in the garage.

I decided to do this primarily because a trip to the local BMW dealer convinced me that the 20K miles I had managed to put on the vehicle over and beyond the mileage expected of a vehicle this age reduced it's value somewhat -- not a huge amount of money, but enough to convince me "enough is enough".

I've said it elsewhere here, but I'll say it again -- properly maintained BMWs are not cheap to run. I haven't really maintained a per-mile figure, but I know damn well it's higher than the GTI. BMWs are a dream to drive and this specimen has been virtually trouble-free...but this kind of pleasure and reliability comes at a price.